Getting rid of the SAT will destroy the coaching industry as we know it. Coaching for the SAT is seen as the teaching of tricks and strategies—a species of cheating—not as supplementary education. The retooled coaching industry will focus on the achievement tests, but insofar as the offerings consist of cram courses for tests in topics such as U.S. history or chemistry, its taint will be reduced.
Yes, the achievement tests are more constructive. But Murray does not go far enough. The Advanced Placement tests are even more constructive because they yield college credits. What we need is a massive increase in the ability of students to earn college credits without ever stepping foot on a bricks-and-mortar college campus.
Let students watch high resolution video lectures and take practice tests on the web for most undergraduate courses. Let them show up in a proctored room once a month to take tests in any subjects where they think they've learned enough to earn college credits. This would be cheaper and much more open to the lower classes, to the bright kids born on the wrong side of the proverbial tracks.
While Murray thinks the SAT is highly accurate and hard to game he thinks a widespread belief that upper class kids can get trained for it reduces its legitimacy.
A low-income student shut out of opportunity for an SAT coaching school has the sense of being shut out of mysteries. Being shut out of a cram course is less daunting. Students know that they can study for a history or chemistry exam on their own. A coaching industry that teaches content along with test-taking techniques will have the additional advantage of being much better pedagogically—at least the students who take the coaching courses will be spending some of their time learning history or chemistry.
The lower or even just middle income students have the sense of being shut out of a lot more than the mysteries of SAT coaching schools. In the world of higher education the use of the SAT is a symptom of a much larger problem. We need to move away from the extremely expensive elite school model and move toward much more accessible educational materials.
Murray says a greater emphasis on achievement tests will cause a bigger focus on the quality of high schools.
The substitution of achievement tests for the SAT will put a spotlight on the quality of the local high school’s curriculum. If achievement test scores are getting all of the parents’ attention in the college admissions process, the courses that prepare for those achievement tests will get more of their attention as well, and the pressure for those courses to improve will increase.
I think the spotlight should shift away from high schools and colleges and toward ways to empower individuals to learn as much as they want and can handle.
In spite of co-authoring The Bell Curve Murray imagines there's some way to reduce the role of cognitive status symbols in American society.
The final benefit of getting rid of the SAT is the hardest to describe but is probably the most important. By getting rid of the SAT, we would be getting rid of a totem for members of the cognitive elite.
But totems for signaling higher intelligence help to make the labor market much more efficient and accurate. We need ways for employers to identify job applicants who are smart enough to do the most cognitively demanding jobs.
Education costs too much. Way too much. That is a bigger obstacle than differences in SAT test scores. Educational institutions are also highly inconvenient. You have to set aside 3 months of your life to take some semester-length courses and have to do so where a college is located that offers what you want and that will accept you. You can't choose when the 3 month period starts.
We need to replace the education system that uses the SAT rather than replace the SAT.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2007 July 17 09:21 PM Education|